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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperBusinessHiring a Programmer?
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Kren
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« on: August 16, 2011, 07:26:23 pm »

Hello, I have been lately trying to work solo, yet since I don't know how to code a complete game I have decided to actually hire one, yet I get some doubts and I am wondering if the lovely people of tigsource would hel me out:

How hard is to hire a programmer?
How much to pay him?
Any personal expierience or things I should watch out?


I'm just trying to know what are people experience in this, since I have seen people mentioning how they hire artist and artist related problems, yet no one has ever mentioned hiring a programmer ;( or atleast I haven't seen one.
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Nix
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« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2011, 07:52:25 pm »

Hiring a programmer can be much more expensive than hiring an artist. It's also much more difficult. Programming is such an integral part of the game development process that hiring a freelancer doesn't make a ton of sense. You will want to try something out, tweak it, prototype something else, etc. You should instead either:

a) learn to program yourself or get familiar with something like Construct
b) team up with a programmer as a collaboration. Then you will be free to spend as much time as you like tweaking your work without throwing your wallet at a freelancer.

Edit: but if you actually have a good budget (expect several thousands at least for a good programmer and a small design), and can't bring yourself to collaborate for some reason you can try posting here, on gamedev.net, indiegamer.com, or by networking in real life at a jam or GDC.
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Eclipse
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« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2011, 01:50:17 am »

I do freelance programming, first thing you need to do is to calculate, realistically, how much development time your game needs. If you aren't able to do so, let someone competent do a rough tasklist and a planning with dates and milestones.
You still need to provide a good design document.

After that, expect to pay something like $2.000 per development month.

If you don't have the budget, as Nix said, the best thing is to team up with someone. But in that case your really need to provide a kick ass design document and possibly some decent artwork or find an artist too, as convincing someone to spend time on a project that's not his own one is very difficult. You can also agree on something like "I pay you something much lower than the average sum you take but we'll share part of the profits"
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Bryant
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« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2011, 07:37:08 am »

Finding a capable full time programmer for $2,000/month seems almost impossible to me. We're in the process of contracting a new programmer, and even student interns expect around $3,000/month. If you reach out to professional freelancers, you're looking at paying anywhere from $40-$80/hour. One talented programmer recently quoted us at $16,000/month.

If you're not sitting on a mountain of cash your best bet is to do what Nix suggested. Convince a programmer that your project is awesome and collaborate together.
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Bryant
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« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2011, 07:40:06 am »

One more thing I forgot to mention: if you're willing to outsource your programming efforts to India, you can get a full time programmer for as cheap as $10/hour. Another outsourcing firm quoted us at $2,500/month for a full time developer. We didn't end up going that route, but maybe it's worth exploring. I just feel that it doesn't lend itself well to the iterative nature of game development. It might be too much of a time sink unless you have an extremely detailed spec written in stone.
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Eclipse
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« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2011, 08:08:52 am »

Finding a capable full time programmer for $2,000/month seems almost impossible to me. We're in the process of contracting a new programmer, and even student interns expect around $3,000/month. If you reach out to professional freelancers, you're looking at paying anywhere from $40-$80/hour. One talented programmer recently quoted us at $16,000/month.

If you're not sitting on a mountain of cash your best bet is to do what Nix suggested. Convince a programmer that your project is awesome and collaborate together.

well yes, I was talking about a freelance online collaboration. If you want someone to work only for you as employee price rise quite a bit.


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« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2011, 11:36:04 am »

If you're hiring a programmer, you either need to opt them in for some manner of profit sharing, or you need to reach for your wallet. Programmers aren't cheap. This is because they aren't as common as artists or musicians, and their talents are extremely useful in a whole lot of different industries. Programmers can get work just about anywhere, and they can command much higher salaries for their skills. It's perfectly common for experienced programmers with several years of experience to be earning six figures and higher annually. (no matter what industry they're in)

No self-respecting programmer is going to work for $2,000 a month unless they are expecting a percentage of the profits in addition.
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Nix
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« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2011, 11:43:14 am »

$2,000 a month wouldn't be full-time. It would be a freelance job, and the freelancer would be free to pursue other jobs at the time time.
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Kren
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« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2011, 11:50:50 am »

oh wow I didn't know  it was that expensive, you sure know how to iluminate me, my idea was to pay 500-1000 at most but it seems that it will be hard.


The problem I find with collab and splitting 50/50 is that the programmer since he is the tester and coder tends to make the game his way, Like I tell him no double jump, yet he ads it, I tell him I want him to move faster and he doesn't do it. It's just a big pain to work with someone who doesn't follow the idea that we defined from the beggining, yet hopefully I will be able to work with someone who is.

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Nix
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« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2011, 11:54:01 am »

The problem I find with collab and splitting 50/50 is that the programmer since he is the tester and coder tends to make the game his way, Like I tell him no double jump, yet he ads it, I tell him I want him to move faster and he doesn't do it.

This is tough. The best solution: Find someone to work with in real life. If you're in a room together, true collaboration is a lot easier.
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Kren
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« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2011, 02:04:59 pm »

The problem I find with collab and splitting 50/50 is that the programmer since he is the tester and coder tends to make the game his way, Like I tell him no double jump, yet he ads it, I tell him I want him to move faster and he doesn't do it.

This is tough. The best solution: Find someone to work with in real life. If you're in a room together, true collaboration is a lot easier.
Yeah I know, I have always wanted that, it will help speed up, but it seems no one is interested in game making, I am currently taking a class about game making and we are only 4 including me, and they are more focused in Commercial stuffs( actually they just want to make a crappy Fps ), and they don't know how to program a full game just basics like movement and so.

I will try to recruit a coder more than getting a collab and seei f he likes my ideas and so, but first I gotta design it well.

Nix thanks for the help, I really thought a programmer price is nearly the same as an artist ;/.
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« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2011, 12:46:53 pm »

The average game programmer salary in the US is $40-45 per hour (and similar in many other countries) so you should be expecting to pay at least this for a decent programmer with a reasonable amount of experience, and at most double for certain work. You should expect to see a portfolio of released games, and have some idea of the role they had on the projects. In your case, you would be looking for a programmer who has been the lead or only programmer on previous projects. This should give you a good idea of how talented they are.

Being a freelancer myself, I completely disagree that hiring a freelancer does not make sense. A freelancer can do the job just as well, if not better depending on experience, their work ethic, and the person leading the project. Tweaking and prototyping has been a big part of many projects I have freelanced on, and I turn work around faster than the inhouse programmers. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is putting people off hiring people like me. It probably came from bad experiences, because unfortunately, not all programmers work to the same standard, or are as honest as me.

A company I work for hired a self-proclaimed Android expert some time ago. I don't know the full story, but the project went on for months, often with no contact, bug riddled builds etc.  So they asked me to do an Android project for them (even though I had never worked with Android), and I completed the project in under 2 months, with very few issues. Unsurprisingly, they fired the other guy.

So even the best can make mistakes when hiring.  It's probably a good idea to do a trial run with whoever you feel has the experience you need. Most people don't do this these days, which is fine by me and they don't regret it, but you could regret not doing a trial.  This is really the only way you can be sure anyone is good to work with - by working with them.
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« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2011, 10:26:15 pm »

I actually find it sad that programmers only make $40-45 per hour, even though that seems like a lot to pay, because I was a programmer in the 80's and independent contractor programmers were making $50 per hour back then. I think the fact that there are so many people in India willing to do it cheaper has made the market harder for programmers in the US.
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bateleur
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« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2011, 02:05:53 pm »

I actually find it sad that programmers only make $40-45 per hour

You can cheer up then, because:

1) Freelancers always charge substantially more per hour than salaried employees make if you do the sums, because they won't be working billable hours full time for the entire year.

2) Games industry salaries are artificially low because everyone wants to be in games. If you want to be better paid, work in financial programming. (You'll die of boredom, but I promise you the money is excellent.)
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Nix
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« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2011, 02:37:21 pm »

How do you break into freelance programming? And I don't mean game stuff, but just general purpose, whatever you need, freelance programming. Are there any freelancers here who might be able to spread some wisdom?
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hurricane
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« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2011, 06:37:51 pm »

How do you break into freelance programming? And I don't mean game stuff, but just general purpose, whatever you need, freelance programming. Are there any freelancers here who might be able to spread some wisdom?
It would be hard to get hired unless you can show previous work that you have done and have excellent references from employers. There are sites that you can advertise on. My son uses one of these. The next time I talk to him I will get you the name of the site.
You can also sign up for a service like freelancer.com, and bid on jobs. Generally, you don't get paid much but you will get experience and references.
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bateleur
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« Reply #16 on: August 19, 2011, 11:05:01 pm »

How do you break into freelance programming? And I don't mean game stuff, but just general purpose, whatever you need, freelance programming. Are there any freelancers here who might be able to spread some wisdom?

I got into it simply by making sure that everyone I knew was aware I was taking on freelance work. Might be harder for some people, though. I had the advantage of having worked in the (non-games) industry and having a fairly shiny academic CV. It also helps to be confident you can code in just about any language. A fair proportion of the freelance jobs that are easy to pick up when you start are either PHP or JavaScript!

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« Reply #17 on: August 26, 2011, 09:39:29 pm »

Man this thread is full of awesome.


How do you break into freelance programming? And I don't mean game stuff, but just general purpose, whatever you need, freelance programming. Are there any freelancers here who might be able to spread some wisdom?
Everyone I know got into it via word of mouth. Know any freelancers? Or anyone who does contract work on the weekends? Tell them you want work. Assuming they are good, they'll have repeat customers, plus customers referring new customers to them. When they get more work then they can handle, they can pass it to you: "I don't have time to do that, but I know a guy who does. He's good. Let me give you his email address."  (And then later when you have more work than you can handle, but they are between contracts, you can pass work back to them...)


If you reach out to professional freelancers, you're looking at paying anywhere from $40-$80/hour.
WTF? That seems really low. When I was doing freelance work 5 years ago everyone I knew charged at least $100/hour. Maybe this was skewed higher because it was webapp development (not games) and in the silicon valley.


The problem I find with collab and splitting 50/50 is that the programmer since he is the tester and coder tends to make the game his way, Like I tell him no double jump, yet he ads it, I tell him I want him to move faster and he doesn't do it. It's just a big pain to work with someone who doesn't follow the idea that we defined from the beggining, yet hopefully I will be able to work with someone who is.
I'm going to pick this apart. I'm not being mean, just hoping to help you find a new way of looking at the problem. And I'm being terse to save space...pretend I added lots of "have you considered?" and "maybe..." and "this might help..." phrases. Again, I don't intend this to be harsh Smiley

1. Why is the programmer the tester? You can test as well as he can.
2. This whole "defined from the beginning" thing is not how games are made. Read http://www.lostgarden.com/2008/12/post-it-note-design-docs.html
3. If the programmer adds double jump, and it is awesome, then keep it. If you can prove it isn't awesome (you're doing play testing, right?) then it will be easy to convince him to take it out. Tip for working with programmers: they won't do what they are told, you have to convince them instead. If you have evidence that players were confused by double-jump, or that they had less fun, then it should be easy to convince the programmer to remove it.
4. Focus more on what *you* are adding to the collaboration. Ideally you want the programmer coming to *you* saying "hey I need your help." I'm a programmer myself, and I have a lot of respect for good artists (they can make better art in way less time than it takes me to make crappy art) and good game designers (they are much better at making a game fun than I am). Remember that programmers have weaknesses too...and if that overlaps with your strengths then it should be a good collaboration.

It is also possible that you just haven't worked with any good programmers yet. Smiley

There's a common pattern on game development forums: Some crappy programmer posts a buggy, half-finished game that only sorta works and says "I need a game designer (or artist) to help make this game awesome" and no one replies. Meanwhile, some crappy game designer posts a terrible idea for a game that would be impossible to code and wouldn't be fun anyway and says "I have an awesome idea for a game but I need a programmer (or artist) to help finish it" and gets no replies.

Don't be these people. Neither of these people is providing anything of value and so they have a really hard time finding good collaborators. Instead make sure that it is obvious to people that you can bring something valuable to a collaboration. If you're an artist, have a kickass portfolio. If you're a game designer, design some board games or card games, release some mods to existing games (doesn't require much coding but shows you know how to make a game fun), etc.
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« Reply #18 on: August 27, 2011, 01:25:50 am »

oh wow I didn't know  it was that expensive, you sure know how to iluminate me, my idea was to pay 500-1000 at most but it seems that it will be hard.

$1000 would be fine for a simple game like a match3 or a small platformer.

I normally charge 300 eur/day (~$430) & can easily make something to the tune of an asteroid-or space invaders style game in 3 days (or more likely 1 week part-time work).
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« Reply #19 on: August 27, 2011, 12:15:59 pm »

Tip for working with programmers: they won't do what they are told, you have to convince them instead. If you have evidence that players were confused by double-jump, or that they had less fun, then it should be easy to convince the programmer to remove it..

I've never known a programmer that won't do what they are told - I always do what I am told (though I prefer to be asked Wink).  On the other hand, I'm no code monkey.  If experience tells me that something will not, or may not work, I will advise my client before doing anything.

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